Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Depression


“Postpartum” means the time after childbirth. Most women get the “baby blues,” or feel sad or empty, within a few days of giving birth. For many women, the baby blues go away in 3 to 5 days. If baby blues don’t go away or you feel sad, hopeless, or empty for longer than 2 weeks, you may have postpartum depression. Feeling hopeless or empty after childbirth is not a regular or expected part of being a mother.

Postpartum depression is a serious mental illness that involves the brain and affects behavior and physical health. If you have depression, then sad, flat, or empty feelings don’t go away and can interfere with day-to-day life. You might feel unconnected to baby, as if you are not the baby’s mother, or you might not love or care for the baby. These feelings can be mild to severe. Depression during and after pregnancy occurs more often than most people realize. Depression during pregnancy is also called antepartum or prenatal depression, and depression after pregnancy is called postpartum depression.

Mothers can also experience anxiety disorders during or after pregnancy.


The exact causes of postpartum depression are unknown. Changes in hormone levels during and after pregnancy may affect a woman’s mood.

Many non-hormonal factors may also affect mood during this period:

• Changes in your body from pregnancy and delivery

• Changes in work and social relationships

• Having less time and freedom for yourself

• Lack of sleep

• Worries about your ability to be a good mother

You may have a higher chance of postpartum depression if you:

• Are under age 25 years

• Currently use alcohol, take illegal substances, or smoke (these also cause serious health risks for the baby)

• Did not plan the pregnancy or had mixed feelings about the pregnancy

• Had depression, bipolar disorder, or an anxiety disorder before your pregnancy, or with a past pregnancy

• Had a stressful event during the pregnancy or delivery, including personal illness, death or illness of a loved one, a difficult or emergency delivery, premature delivery, or illness or birth defect in the baby

• Have a close family member who has had depression or anxiety

• Have a poor relationship with your significant other or are single

• Have money or housing problems

• Have little support from family, friends, or your spouse or partner


Some normal changes after pregnancy can cause symptoms similar to those of depression. Many mothers feel overwhelmed when a new baby comes home.

But if you have any of the following symptoms of depression for more than 2 weeks, call the doctor.

● Feeling restless or moody

● Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed

● Crying a lot

● Having thoughts of hurting the baby

● Having thoughts of hurting self

● Not having any interest in the baby, not feeling connected to the baby, or feeling as if the baby is someone else’s baby

● Having no energy or motivation

● Eating too little or too much

● Sleeping too little or too much

● Having trouble focusing or making decisions

● Having memory problems

● Feeling worthless, guilty, or like a bad mother

● Losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy

● Withdrawing from friends and family

● Having headaches, aches, and pains, or stomach problems that don’t go away

Some women don’t tell anyone about their symptoms. New mothers may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about feeling depressed when they are supposed to be happy. The doctor can help you figure out whether symptoms are caused by depression or something else.


Treatment for postpartum depression


  • There are different types of medicines for postpartum depression. All of them must be prescribed by the doctor or nurse. The most common type is antidepressants. Antidepressants can help relieve symptoms of depression and some can be taken while you’re breastfeeding. Antidepressants may take several weeks to start working.


  • During therapy, you talk to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker to learn strategies to change how depression makes you think, feel, and act.


  • This part of the treatment maybe a little more difficult than it sounds. The support of family and friends, joining a mom’s support group, and good nutrition and exercise can be helpful. Other suggestions for helping to cope with depression around pregnancy include resting as much as you can (sleep when the baby sleeps) and make time to go out or visit friends.

Exams and Tests

There is no single test to diagnose postpartum depression. Diagnosis is based on the symptoms you describe to your health care provider.

Your provider may order blood tests to screen for medical causes of depression.